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Watch These Paris Opéra Ballet Dancers Give a Surprise In-Flight Performance

Members of the Paris Opéra Ballet give a surprise performance on an Air France flight from Shanghai to Paris. Courtesy Air France.

Just imagine: you're settling in for a long international flight, when suddenly Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake starts playing on the intercom—and a group of feather-clad ballerinas bourrée down the aisle. That's exactly what happened last week to Air France customers on a Paris-bound flight from Shanghai, when 10 members of the Paris Opéra Ballet gave a impromptu performance throughout the plane's cabins.


The company was on its way home from a two-week tour of Asia. To celebrate its successful run, POB teamed up with Air France, its official partner and carrier for the tour, to give a surprise in-flight show. POB coryphée Yvon Demol choreographed the short piece, set to music from Swan Lake and Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons, adapting it for the plane's limited aisle space. No room for tutus, here, either, but the 10 dancers glammed up their simple white T-shirts and black pants with feathered swan tiaras. We love the audience's—er, passengers'—reactions as they realize what's going on! See for yourself below.

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Ballet Careers
Lenai Alexis Wilkerson. Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Michelle Tabnick Public Relations.

This is one of a series of stories on recent graduates' on-campus experiences—and the connections they made that jump-started their dance careers. Lenai Alexis Wilkerson graduated from University of Southern California with a BFA in dance (dance performance concentration) and a political science minor in 2019.

As Lenai Alexis Wilkerson looked at colleges, she wanted a school that would prepare her for two totally different professions: dancing and law. "I knew, pretty much when I was 16, that I wanted to go to law school," she says. "So I wanted the opportunity to have a dual college experience, where I could have a conservatory training style within a university and I could focus equally on my academics." When she auditioned for the inaugural class of University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, she knew it was the right fit.

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Sponsored by Ballet Arizona
Tzu Chia Huang, Courtesy Ballet Arizona

These days, ballet dancers are asked to do more than they ever have—whether that's tackling versatile rep, taking on intense cross-training regimens or managing everything from their Instagram pages to their summer layoff gigs.

Without proper training, these demands can take a toll on both the mind and the body. But students can start preparing for them early—with the right summer intensive program.

The School of Ballet Arizona's summer intensive takes a well-rounded approach to training—not just focusing on technique and facility but nurturing overall dancer growth. "You cannot make a dancer just by screaming at them like they used to," says master ballet teacher Roberto Muñoz, who guests at the program every summer. "You have to take care of the person as well."

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Nicolas Pelletier in Carmina Burana. Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet.

Last week, Colorado Ballet interrupted Nutcracker rehearsals for an exciting announcement: Four dancers were being promoted. Though all made the jump from the company's corps de ballet, Nicolas Pelletier ascended directly to the rank of soloist, while Sean Omandam, Emily Speed and Melissa Zoebisch were promoted to demi-soloist. This news comes hot on the heels of last August's promotion of Francisco Estevez to principal.

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Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

While many of us are deep in Nutcracker duties, The School of Pennsylvania Ballet director James Payne has been looking further ahead, finalizing preparations for the school's summer intensive programs. In January, he and his staff will embark on a 24-city audition tour to scour the country for the best young dancers, deciding whether or not to offer them a spot—maybe even a scholarship—in the school's rigorous 5-week intensive focused on high-caliber ballet instruction. Though he'll be evaluating aspirants, he urges that as a student, you should be equally selective in choosing programs that could galvanize your training—and possibly even your career.

We got Payne's advice on strategizing your summer intensive plan before the audition cycle kicks in:

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